Rory Darge – who made his Scotland debut against Wales during the 2022 Six Nations and earned only his 12th cap in Sunday’s defeat to South Africa in Marseilles – has never faced Tonga before.
But the openside flanker has a fair idea of what to expect from the Pacific Islanders when the two sides lock horns next Sunday [24th September] having trained and played alongside powerhouse No 8 Sione Vailanu at Glasgow Warriors last season.
“It will be a weird one,” said Darge. “I like watching him when he is in my team. He typifies what they are all about, big men, physical challenge, similar to what we faced against South Africa, and we can take confidence from how we defended there.”
Scotland have this weekend off to lick their wounds following their Springbok loss before refocussing on getting their World Cup campaign back on track. Meanwhile, Tonga sat out the opening weekend and will kick-off their campaign against Ireland in Bordeaux this Saturday evening.
Darge and his team-mates will be paying close attention, with the 6ft 1ins and 19 stone Vailanu – who was a breakthrough star for Glasgow last season following his move north from Worcester Warriors – set to play a key role for the underdogs. 
“A week off between South Africa and Tonga is great for us,” the 23-year-old Glasgow breakaway added. “We’re frustrated and would love to get back out there straight away, but both these teams present  a huge physical challenge, so I think all the guys in the squad understand that it is good to have a few extra days to let our bodies recover.
“A lot went into that opening game against South Africa and it is really disappointing that we were on the wrong side of it in terms of the performance and the result. Now it is time to reset, take a couple of days away from it, refocus, then it is three must-wins matches to get out of this pool.”
While generally deflated by the result against South Africa, Darge stressed that the team will draw lessons from the experience, which they can take into their Tonga assignment, followed by Romania the next Saturday, and then Ireland seven days after that.
“We knew that they were going to pressure on us with their line-speed and at the breakdown and we just didn’t deal with it as well as we wanted to,” reflected Darge. “Those will be the general big learnings, and obviously the start of the second half when we let them score two tries which left us playing catch-up. 
“Basically, they came out to put us under pressure and disrupted our attacking game, and we need to be better at giving ourselves time on the ball.”
Meanwhile, prop Zander Fagerson was also determined to remain positive, expressing his relief that the wait for Scotland’s second match will not be the same painful experience as the 2019 World Cup when the team were hammered 27-3 in their opening match.

“That was a long eight days,” he recalls. “I remember it and it isn’t a pleasant memory. I don’t think it’s the same this time.
“We’re a much better team after four years. But it doesn’t matter who far you think you’ve come, you’ve got to get the results, so we now need to make sure we get the job done against Tonga.
 “It’s a long tournament and there’s a few twists in the road still to come. We’ll take it game by game so focus turns to Tonga in two weeks’ time.
“It’s small margins. There was one moment in the game when we were attacking and they, for me, come in from an offside to play the ball then make a 40-metre break, so, all of a sudden, we’re in our 22 defending. That’s what happens at this level, if you give them a sniff, they are going to take advantage and really punish.
“We’ve got a really good scrum as well, which we saw with the penalty we won just before half-toie, but that’s another area which was a mixed bag, because sometimes we were really good and sometimes it didn’t go our way.
“We saw glimpses of what we’re capable of but against the world champions we needed an 80-minute performance.
“Consistency in attack and consistency in breakdown are the two key areas we need to focus on going into Tonga.”